The Israeli Committee for Mordechai Vanunu
and for a Middle East Free of Atomic, Biological and Chemical Weapons
February 6 2000
The front page of Yediot Ahronot daily newspaper on February 6, quotes from the London Sunday Times: "The Dimona reactor is old and dangerous; It should be closed". The speaker quoted is Prof. Uzi Even, formerly a senior scientist at the reactor, currently a leading member of the Meretz party, who may soon become a Member of Knesset. Another scientist, who was not named, is quoted as saying that the structure of the reactor has been damaged as the result of radiation and is now "vulnerable and dangerous." The reactor in Dimona has been active for 36 years.
Prof. Even said that he supported a public debate on safety issues relating to the reactor, and he called for closing the reactor immediately: "The closure of the reactor must begin soon: a reactor is not like an ordinary factory, that you close and go home. Even when the reactor ceases to operate, there are chemical processes that continue for many years and which cannot be stopped. The planning and monitoring of the closure of the reactor might continue for a long period of time."
The Atomic Energy Commission offered the following response: "The reactor is maintained in the best manner possible. Maintenance is performed regularly and is strictly supervised, within the reactor itself, by the AEC's Licensing and Safety Department and by the Public Committee for Nuclear Safety." One of the main reasons for MK Issam Makhoul's historic initiative last week, to bring the issue of Israel's nuclear weapons before the Knesset, was the fact that none of the officials in these organizations are elected by, or known to the public; there is no public record of their actions and decisions; and no public or extraparliamentary knowledge of the standards according to which they operate.
In a separate article, mention is made of two accidents that occurred in the reactor, the details of which are kept secret under Israel's infamous policy of "ambiguity". In one accident, a laboratory worker was killed. In the second, which happened in 1991, a senior employee threatened to sue the AEC after his health was seriously impaired. The details of this accident and of the settlement that was reached, remain secret. Yediot Ahronot also mentions a third accident about which no details are known, including whether there were any casualties, and the AEC continues to deny that it even happened.